Separation (Familia Ante Omnia - Book Two, Part Four) by SaraJany
Summary: Saturnine Snape knew that becoming Hogwarts’ new Defence Against the Dark Arts’ professor without revealing her identity would be a challenge.

When the headmaster tricks her into taking on the hunt for the Horcruxes as well, she realises that evading her brother’s suspicion will not be the most arduous task she’ll have to perform. It’s a good thing she has a lupine friend she can count on for help.

Harry’s sixth year, as seen through the eyes of Saturnine. And an exploration of the witch’s feelings through the prism of her relationship with Harry, Severus, and Remus.
Categories: Parental Snape > Guardian Snape Main Characters: .Snape and Harry (required), Draco, Remus
Snape Flavour: Canon Snape
Genres: Drama, Family, General
Tags: Adoption
Takes Place: 6th Year
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: Familia Ante Omnia
Chapters: 11 Completed: Yes Word count: 28329 Read: 692 Published: 16 Apr 2022 Updated: 29 Apr 2022
Walking a Tightrope by SaraJany

On Monday morning, Saturnine felt her apprehension grow as she readied herself for her first classes. She started with an easy class: the Ravenclaw-Hufflepuff third-years. And after recess, she had the Gryffindor-Slytherin sixth-year group to look out for—Harry’s class. She had prepared something special for them that she hoped would make a lasting impression. And if she got to impress Harry a little with her nonverbal skills, it would make her day.

She was thankful that her disguise was holding up so far. Aside from that first staff meeting, she had now taken several meals in the Great Hall, and no one had recognised her. And going by the vast number of questions she received about her schooling at Beauxbatons, and France in general, it seemed everyone had bought her story.

Never before had she thought that her time spent in the north of France and the lengthy discussions she had had with the owner of the bookstore where she worked would come in so handy. The librarian, François Francis, a graduate of the Académie de Magie Beauxbâtons, had shared several memorable moments of his youth with his young employee, and the two had spent many an afternoon listing differences and similarities between the two schools.

On a more personal level, Saturnine hadn’t yet been face-to-face with her brother. Rather, she worked under the assumption that the longer she delayed the inevitable, the less likely Severus would be to give her the time of the day. If she could become a fixture in his routine, a dismissible sight on the periphery of his vision, the taciturn Potions Master might not pay much attention to her when the time came for direct interaction. Or at least, that’s what she told herself to calm her nerves.

Using the short fifteen-minute break of the morning recess, Saturnine dipped out of her classroom for a quick stop at the library. With all the preparation she’d had to do, and Remus’ potion, she had been unable to stop by before.

Entering the marvellous domain that took up a large section of the castle’s first floor, Saturnine felt a wave of excitement rush through her, shaking her to the core. The sight set her heart aflutter, as it had the first time that she had crossed its threshold twenty-two years ago. Sitting there, within an arm’s length, were tens of thousands of books resting on thousands of shelves along hundreds of narrow rows. So many pages, so many words—there, within the reach of her fingertips.

To Saturnine, books have always held the cherished consistency of faithful companions. In her teens, when life turned awful, she nearly lost her sanity to the lure of talented wordsmiths. Spending her free time with her shoulders hunched over paper and ink, she immersed herself in made-up worlds. Handing over the controls of her mind to the throes of her passion, she allowed her body to be trapped in a prison of its own making.

Twenty years later, she itched to greet them all, to lose herself within their pages, to sip their knowledge and unlock their mysteries. It took a genuine effort on her part to move straight to Madam Pince’s desk with no detour.

“Professor Nine,” the woman addressed her, in a hushed tone so low it should have been inaudible. The librarian must have perfected it over the years, for Saturnine understood every single syllable. “Here to pick up the volumes you owled me for?”

Not trusting herself to speak in a matching tone, Saturnine nodded emphatically.

With the tip of one bony finger, Irma Pince wordlessly pushed forward a stack of books she’d had ready to go. The sound wasn’t any louder than the turning of a page.

Saturnine nodded her thanks and turned on her heel. Books safely piled in her arms, she hurried out of the library before the last of her resolve left her, and she gave in to the lure of the literary cornucopia. Eyes resolutely downcast, she almost bumped into whoever was coming in. Glancing up, she was met with a wall of black, and she started in recognition.

She barely remembered to watch her tone of voice as she apologised. “Oh, pardon,” she rushed out quickly. “I didn’t see you there, Professor Snape.”

Her brother barely acknowledged her and said nothing as he skulked past, seemingly in a hurry to get into the library himself.

The encounter, though brief, left Saturnine reeling. And it was with short, panting breaths and shaking legs that she made her way back to her office on the third floor. Her head was spinning.

Severus had been there, only inches away from her—so close and yet so far. She realised it was a good thing she’d been holding an armload of books against her chest at that moment, for there was no saying what her hands might have been tempted to do otherwise. She had wanted to reach out so badly.

Entering the third-floor corridor, she felt the familiar sting of tears burn at the corners of her eyes and fought to keep her composure a short while longer. It wouldn’t do to break down in front of the students on her first day of teaching.

Crossing through her office in a daze, she carelessly dropped the pile of books on her desk before falling into a chair. In her mind, the brief encounter at the library’s entrance repeated itself in a loop. And every viewing was like a tiny stab to the heart. This was the first close look she’d had of her brother in fifteen years, and she wasn’t likely to forget it anytime soon.

It was no surprise that Severus looked older than the teenager she remembered, but she hadn’t expected him to look so worn-out and weary. There were tight lines at the corners of his eyes and dark smudges underneath his lashes. The skin on his cheeks was pallid and stretched tight over his sunken cheekbones. His dark eyes that had always gleamed with an intelligent, curious spark had been dull and flat. She knew the signs: not only did Severus look sickly, but he wasn’t eating and sleeping enough.

No one else seemed to have noticed anything, though. Or if they had, they didn’t comment on it, and Saturnine had to wonder if maybe that was how Severus always looked. If that was the case, she was probably better off not knowing it. Still, there had been no hesitation to her brother’s movements, and he’d stalked past her showing no signs of outward weakness. That made her wonder what potions regiment he was under. Overmedicating, rather than taking better care of himself, was something her brother would do. Circe knew it was what he would have done if she hadn’t been there to put her foot down when they were younger.

“Walking a tightrope, my arse,” she muttered to her empty office, with all the bitter resentment she could muster. Earlier that year Albus Dumbledore had assured her that Severus was fine—under a lot of pressure, yes, but fine. Bollocks!

Hogwarts’ Potions Master was ill and barely coping, but he was so good at hiding it that no one had noticed. But regardless of which mask he wore, he couldn’t fool her. Saturnine had seen right through him at a glance. And that was perhaps the most disturbing revelation of it all—he had seen nothing in return. Severus had looked right at her, at his own sister, and he hadn’t caught on. Her brother was off his game—and not just a little.

That realisation made her blood boil. She could feel the magic thrumming in her veins, demanding she take action. It came from deep within—a primal need to protect her kin, her blood. The need to defend, to fight for her sibling was strong inside her, and it took a substantial effort of will to calm herself. If she wasn’t careful, she knew she could tear the castle apart if she thought it would help Severus. Same as she could mince Dumbledore to pieces if she convinced herself that he was responsible—and wouldn’t that feel great.

By now, Saturnine was running late for her lesson, she knew. But she couldn’t go downstairs in this state. Focusing on her breathing, she shifted her focus onto Harry, the young boy she had sworn to protect and who—at this very moment—was downstairs with a classroom full of Gryffindors and Slytherins awaiting their first Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson. She had a duty to him, too. Focusing on that, she calmed her breathing enough to reopen her eyes. When the world didn’t spin or swim out of focus, she stood up.

“For Harry,” she said as she glanced at her reflection in the nearest window to make sure her disguise was still unaltered. “You’re doing this for Harry.”

With that last thought repeating itself in her mind, she opened the door of her office and walked down the stairs and into the classroom. She was already standing in front of her students when she realised she’d forgotten to put on her teaching robes.

***

A little over a week later, Saturnine enjoyed a quiet evening at 12 Grimmauld Place with Remus Lupin. She had absconded from the school after dinner and flooed straight from her office’s fireplace to the old townhouse. The two had settled themselves in the cosy library, where plush armchairs and a large sofa were put to good use. They also helped themselves to the liquor-filled crystal decanters that awaited them at the back of the room.

“Something on your mind, dear?” Remus asked as he leaned more comfortably into his armchair. His joints cracked as he stretched his long legs ahead of him.

In retrospect, Saturnine realised she probably ought to have gone for the armchair so that he could have taken the sofa. The full moon was tonight, and she knew that stretching his limbs helped relieve the growing tension that preceded the transformation. Something on her mind, indeed.

“I’ve had Harry in my class twice last week and once more on Monday, and I’m just surprised at what I saw, that’s all,” she sought to explain.

“How so?” Remus asked, rubbing at his left arm as if to fight off a cramp.

“Something’s different about him, but I’m not sure what.” She paused as she quickly scanned her various recollections. “It’s like he’s more serious, more—on his guard, somehow.

“Can’t really blame him for it. Merlin knows it’s the right attitude to have with what’s going on. But I’m still—I don’t know—unsettled?” she continued. “There was a certain openness and vulnerability that I was used to seeing in him. I don’t see it anymore, and I miss it.” She paused, running that sentence over in her head. “Sweet Circe, but that sounded saccharine.”

Remus chuckled. “It sounded like you care, ’Nine. Which you do.” He sighed, rolled his shoulder a little, and continued. “Want to hear my thoughts on it?”

She gave him a nod. “Go ahead—shower me with your wisdom, old man.”

Remus took no offence at the cheap jab. He was only three years older than her, and they both knew it. “Sounds to me like you’re not the only one wearing a mask.”

She frowned as she pondered her friend’s words. “Do you think that’s what it is?”

“Mm-hmm. From the first day Harry set foot in Diagon Alley, he’s been told he is famous. An impossibility made real—the Boy Who Lived. And now, he also has a destiny—to kill the darkest wizard of all times and save everyone.” He sighed. “Prophecy or not, I know that boy. He has a good heart and ultimately, he doesn’t want to let people down. He’ll do what’s expected of him because that’s who he is.”

Saturnine nodded in understanding. “He’s putting up a front for his friends—and everyone else. Showing them what they expect to see.”

“Exactly,” Remus murmured.

She shook her head, feeling her eyes well up. “He’s just a child, though. He shouldn’t have to; this isn’t fair.”

“I’m with you there. But life rarely is fair; you and I know that better than most. I would have taken Harry away and sheltered him from all of this long ago if I thought I could. As it was, I stood by and watched as he lost the only family member he had left.”

She knew who Remus meant: Sirius Black—Harry’s godfather. The past being what it was, Black was a topic the two rarely ever broached. But there was no denying the pain in her friend’s gaze now. Pain for Harry, sure. But pain for himself as well. The young Gryffindor wasn’t the only one who’d lost someone dear that day.

Moving to one end of the sofa, Saturnine patted the inviting space on her left and stared hard at Remus until he stood up from the hard-backed armchair.

“Lie down, would you?” she told him. “I know it’ll help ease the tension.”

Kicking off his shoes and removing his tweed jacket, the werewolf complied. He soon rested on his back with his head pillowed on the dark-haired witch’s thighs—as they had done so many times before. Saturnine massaged the top of his shoulders and arms while Remus focused on keeping his breathing calm.

The two friends remained silent for a long time, contemplating what had been said and what their words foreshadowed. The war was coming, and Harry would be at the heart of it. Saturnine knew she would be there, too, and she had a feeling Remus wouldn’t be far behind.

Hopefully, there would be other people around them. And maybe, hopefully, they would win.

“It’s almost time,” Remus said, eventually. His words broke the comfortable silence they had fallen into.

Glancing at the nearest window, Saturnine noticed how dark the London sky had gotten. It wouldn’t be long until the moon came out. She sighed when Remus sat up with a groan of pain. Why he always insisted she leave, she would never understand.

She had absolute faith in the Wolfsbane Potion he had taken all week—she had brewed the damn thing herself, for Merlin’s sake. Remus would be nothing more than a massive, drowsy, shaggy wolf for the rest of the night. Nevertheless, every time, he insisted she leave him alone.

Though she knew what her friend’s answer would be, she made a point of asking each time, anyway. “Sure you don’t want me to stay?” she demanded. “You’ll be no more than a fluffy dog tonight. I could scratch you behind the ears while you snore the night away.”

Remus turned in his seat, an eyebrow raised in amusement. He may have had some appreciation for her joke, but there was a resolute darkness in his gaze that she was familiar with. She knew what it meant.

“A really big, toothy dog who could snap me in two if I belly-rubbed him the wrong way,” she conceded. “Even so, I can take care of myself.”

Remus shook his head, not nearly as amused anymore. “I will not risk it, and you know it. Thanks for the potion though, ’Nine—sincerely. It makes a world of difference to me.”

“I know, old friend.” She stood up and summoned her teaching robes. Reaching inside a pocket, she retrieved Professor Nine’s square-shaped glasses and pushed them on. “I haven’t forgotten what happens when you don’t have it.” And I never will, she added within the privacy of her thoughts.

There had been no Wolfsbane Potion when the two lived together in Normandie, and Remus lost his mind to the wolf every full moon. She would never forget the screams of agony that came from his mouth during the transformations, nor the howls of rage that escaped the beast’s snout afterwards. It was seared into her brain, like the state she would find him in the next day was—body broken and bleeding, eyes full of unwarranted shame.

She gave Remus a tight, long hug before leaving. She sought to impart as much comfort and affection as she could before he forced her to go. Without needing to be asked, she would return at dawn to check up on him, bringing along her habitual set of muscle relaxants and pain reliever.

“Thank you, Saturnine,” Remus whispered in her ear before stepping back. At his tone, the words could have been ‘I love you’. If the circumstances had been different, she knew it might very well have been—they both knew it.

“You be safe,” she whispered back in much the same tone, echoing his sentiment. It might have been—but they had both decided it wouldn’t.

The End.


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